The good news is that after years of pressure from animal groups, the Chinese government issued a total ban on animal circuses and implemented regulations to stop abuse at the 300 state-owned zoos. The ban went into effect on January 18.
The bad news is the new requirements may put animal performers at risk of being abandoned or destroyed.
According to The Telegraph, live animal shows and circuses are enormously popular in China. Annually 150 million visitors come to watch the performances, which are held primarily at zoos.
Animal rights organizations have long criticized the shows for their cruelty.
Animal circuses commonly include lions that are forced to jump through rings of fire or stand on the back of a horse to perform an acrobatic trick.
Bears are often made to walk across tightropes as they are pulled by cables inserted into their nostrils. And monkeys tear each other apart in live-fighting shows.
Animals Asia Foundation has been cataloging and documenting the exploitation. Their findings showed that animals are routinely whipped, beaten and prodded with electric shocks until they perform a specific trick.
A circus video released by the organization said, “Like with any form of torture, they either succumb or die.”
The Telegraph wrote, “Chinese circuses have defended their shows, saying that the animals are well fed and that teaching them tricks can help them become stars.”
A spokesperson for China’s State Forestry Bureau said a three-month investigation found animals suffering from abuse in more than 50 zoos.
Protection For Other Zoo Animals
The ban also put restrictions on how animals in zoo exhibits are treated. Workers will no longer be able to pull the teeth of tiger cubs so tourists can hold them. And zoos will have to stop serving food made from rare animals.
The ban will also put a halt to attractions that allow visitors to buy live chickens, goats and cows and toss them into cages where lions and tigers rip them apart.
The Bad News
Animals Asia fears the ban will force some zoos to close down and leave animal performers at risk.
David Neale, the Animal Welfare Director for the group said, “In some cases, I am not sure where the animals will go. In some cases I would recommend euthanasia, since there are animals in a very bad way after a few years of being in these performances.”
And another complication to the ban is that the 400 non-state owned zoos were not notified about the new restrictions, leaving welfare groups to wonder if the policy will apply to them.
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